Tuesday, February 24, 2009

In disguise.

Another sister's visit, another busy weekend.

I'm over the moon whenever my sisters come to visit, but I'm always left entirely exhausted. There are always so many places to eat, treats to try, people to see, and events to attend as it's such a short "vacation" for them and they need to pack as much in as possible, but there goes any chance of a relaxing weekend, or even a full night's sleep... (It's my own fault -- I can't sleep past 7:30am nearly ever, even if they're in my bed fast asleep until noon because we have nothing scheduled until brunch!)
So I go about my business, visiting the Hollywood Farmers' Market, or going to Griffith Park, and when I return, they're still asleep. I'm so jealous.

Last week it was pizzas and dreamy off-the-menu bourbon cocktails at Riva, followed by spicy pork tacos from Kogi, the Korean taco truck that is taking the city by storm, a return to Venice in the morning with brunch at Gjelina (BLTs with fried eggs are completely underrated), drinks and exploring LACMA, more Korean food at Chunju Han Il Kwan topped off with coconut cake and more drinks downtown, dim sum in the AM in Monterey Park, taro and almond milk tea with boba, and pineapple buns (containing no pineapple, by the way) from the Chinese bakery next door.
This week, as soon as Liz and I picked up my sister from the airport, we indulged the infamous Father's Office burger (arguably, not a burger, but that is neither here nor there) and they're absolutely addicting sweet potato fries. I've been on the edge of my seat, waiting for the return of the Zoe Nathan brunch and this week was it so we braved the line at Huckleberry for their homemade English muffin topped with La Quercia prosciutto, gruyere, and a poached egg, finished off with pesto the most brilliant shade of green. An hour later, it was time to seize the rare opportunity for Persian food (my friends aren't huge fans) at Shamshiri Grill on Westwood, and then a break in the clouds as my sister attends a wedding!!! (I know eating isn't as miserable as I make it out to be -- there are many people for whom this is more food than they eat in a week.) The evening commences with drinks, and more drinks clear across town, with a late, late night snack of hash browns and sauteed string beans (trying to keep it somewhat healthy). Preserved vegetable, dried pork, and vinegary savory soy milk and Chinese crullers start off the next morning, followed by hot-out-of-the-oven pineapple and red bean mochi buns.
Though we know our stomachs have no need for more buttery brioche style breads, when the rare instance arises that they are still warm to the touch, all bets are off.

We had a an Oscar-viewing party to go to later that evening, which is when I decided it was time to make this week's Tuesdays with Dorie assignment, from Whitney of What's Left On The Table was Caramel Crunch Bars. I have to admit, I wasn't particularly excited about this pick. I like chocolate and toffee as much as the next person, but something about this recipe didn't speak to me. It was, however, the perfect on-the-fly treat to bring to our gathering. Not because you could make some clever Academy Award pun to name it, but because you could literally just slap it together. Whip up the cookie layer, press it into the pan, off into the oven it goes. It wasn't the prettiest of creations (maybe as a result of my hurried assembly), so I still didn't have high hopes for it, but once we finished dinner, and everyone took their first bite, and then another, we knew it was trouble. Caramel and salt pair as if they were soulmates, so the saltiness of the base balanced the richness of the dark chocolate and toffee layers beautifully. Next time, I would cut down on the amount of chopped chocolate in the cookie layer, or leave it out entirely. It was tasty, but not completely necessary, and for me, blurred the definition between the cookie and chocolate layer. I might add some chopped almonds on top in the future though, as that was all that was missing to create a delicious Almond Roca bar!
All in all, it was an enjoyable weekend, despite the sometimes laborious nibbles. And anyone who doesn't think one can tire from eating has clearly not spent some time with my family. We welcome new dining companions though -- more people means we can try even more.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Joining the Tuesdays With Dorie group was on my mind long before I joined. I can't recall the first time I heard about the group, but it was probably not long after I learned about its namesake and discovered the wonder of her recipes. Korovas, cocoa chocolate chip cookies...they all made my mouth water, and delving deeper into this Dorie Greenspan, I found her book "Baking: From My Home to Yours" and became entranced with the cover photo of the Devil's Food White Out Cake. I'm sure the cover photo alone has won over many people who have been on the "What baking cookbook should I buy?" fence, and it was our good fortune that Stephanie of Confessions of a City Eater picked this cake for this week's assignment.
I've only made one other "Celebration Cake" of Dorie's (Bill's Big Carrot Cake) and was so excited to finally try another!!

Unfortunately, I was disappointed.

It started off so well, but I'm not sure if it was the batter sitting around for 20 minutes after having been prepared as I had forgotten to preheat the oven (what experienced baker does that?!), but despite having tasted delicious, the cake didn't rise too much. The beauty of this baking community is that you can share your results and figure out if it was the recipe's error, or if you just screwed up royally. Thankfully, I had read enough Ps&Qs to know that a low rise wasn't uncommon for this cake. Kudos to the food stylist for the book, because he/she made it look towering.
My second challenge was the marshmallow frosting. This was my first attempt at this kind of frosting, although I had made the marshmallow topping for smitten kitchen's s'mores pie awhile back, but this time was really unsuccessful. I had read on the boards that pasteurized egg whites would work (even though the carton says "not suitable for meringues"), but I really should have done the work to separate actual eggs. It achieved a marshmallow taste, but not a fluffy yet firm texture. In fact, when the frosting fell from the weight of the cake layers, it didn't look so hot. In the photos, you can't even really tell that there is frosting between the layers! And thank goodness the cake is meant to be covered in cake crumbs!!

Regardless of the presentation, it was a tasty cake. The fourth layer of cake that was crumbled to decorate the outside yielded far too many crumbs, so I've been eating it one delicious spoonful at a time. I actually prefer this unadulterated layer of cake over the frosted version (or that may just speak volumes about the state of my frosting). I may try this recipe again, just because the cake is so tasty, and maybe trade out the marshmallow frosting for something like...cream cheese? Mmmmm...I can just taste it now...